M Zafar Khan Safdar
In her book’ JabaraurJamhooriat’ published in 2007, former first lady of Pakistan Begum Kulsoom Nawaz exquisitelynarrateddifference between democracy and dictatorship, shared the callous and violent behaviour of Generals who were responsible for the coup d-etatof 1999 in Pakistan, and discoursed the struggle rendered for the freedom of her husband.Her book is the testimony of what our security establishment and judiciary do to elected leaders, and how they try to demean their emotional state and inertia.
Begum Kulsoom Nawaz’s first direct exposure to the harsh political landscape of Pakistan came in October 1999 when her husband’s government was toppled and he was imprisoned. She was detained by military police and placed under house arrest along with other members of the family. She became interim president of the PML-N, made her own political headlines during her detention when she defied armed military-men and led a procession from her Model Town residence across Lahore city. It was her struggle for democracy and supremacy of law against the strongest dictator of time Pervez Musharraf that graded her to the title of ‘Maadre-Jamhooriat’. That iron ladydied this weekat the age of 68 in London, succumbing to a long battle with cancer.Three times ex-premier Nawaz Sharif’s wife, was on life support for several weeks before she finally slipped into a coma in June this year following a cardiac arrest.She was diagnosed with throat cancer in August 2017. Last rituals and herburial will take place today at Raiwind Lahore.
She had stood by Nawaz Sharif during his entire political career since the late 1970s, and was understood to have advised him on various matters. She also occasionally wrote speeches for her husband.It is very unfortunate to see that our censored media has reduced her to mere wife of Nawaz Sharif, she was more than that. A gritty woman who personified Hemingway’s definition of courage, challenging the wrath of a military dictator all alone by facing him down fearlessly when others had caved in.Maryam Nawaz in an interview expressed her feelings concerning her mother by sayingthat “she [Begum Kulsoom Nawaz] dauntlessly challenged the usurper when a lot of men backed out”. Begum Kulsoom was highly educated with degrees in Urdu literature and philosophy, a brave democrat, elected parliamentarian, graceful and humble human being.In today’s air-brushed times, it is imperative to remember Begum Kulsoom Nawaz as a spirited democrat and praise her for her defiance, for her political contributions, sacrifices and her quiet dignity. She paid high price, got exiled, separated from family, watched her husband put on trial and jailed, and yet remained unsung.
Nawaz Sharif and his daughter Maryam Nawaz are currently lodged in Rawalpindi’s Adiala jail who were sentenced 10 and seven years in prison, respectively, for the crimes they never committed. Both of them came to Pakistan in compliance with court orders to surrender and be jailed. They could have stayed back to be with Begum Kulsoom Nawaz during her ailment, but they did not. Few in Pakistan’spolitical history can match this principled stance, personal and actual sacrifice for democracy.
Begum Kulsoom married Nawaz Sharif in 1970 and served as the first lady of Pakistan for three non-consecutive terms from 1990-1993, 1997-1999 and 2013-2017. She was elected as a member of National Assembly from Lahore in September 2017. She contested the election from the seat vacated by her husband after the Supreme Court disqualified him from holding public office in the Panama Papers’ scandal in July 2017. Begum Kulsoom Nawaz also served as the president of the PML-N from 1999 to 2002. Begum Kulsoom Nawaz was from a muchrespected Lahori family. She was born in 1950 to a businessman and investor, Mohammad Hafeez Butt, and his wife Razia Begum. Her father’s Butt family has Kashmiri origins which has deep roots in Lahore city, whileRazia Begum hailed from a well-known family of wrestlers from Amritsar, India, who migrated to Lahore in 1947. Her maternal grandfather Ghulam Mohammad Baksh, Gama Pehalwan, is considered one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. Despite being from a very legendry family and spouse of the most powerful man, she always had exuded a passive and patient demeanor. And her role as the first lady, notwithstanding, she had maintained a low profile even in the face of controversies. May her soul rest in peace.
(The writer holds PhD in Political Science, his area of specialization is political development and social change. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweet @zafarkhansafdar)
M Zafar Khan Safdar